Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

As John Robles Sees It… RF Ministry of Emergency Situations Aiding Hurricane-Struck USA


A true unsung hero of the modern world is the RF Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS in Russian). 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they’re ready to respond to any emergency, anywhere on the planet. They selflessly and tirelessly fulfil their missions, asking nothing in return. The thousands of professionals at EMERCOM (as it’s known internationally, derived from “Emergency Control Ministry”) save a life every 12 minutes, something that’s truly admirable. The MChS dispatched two Ilyushin Il-76 cargo aircraft loaded with humanitarian aid to the USA, for victims of Hurricane Sandy. The aircraft lifted off from the Ramenskoye Airport near Moscow, which has long-enough runways to facilitate takeoffs and landings of such a large heavily-laden aircraft. The two planes carried more than 50 tons of emergency supplies for those hardest hit by the hurricane in the USA. This isn’t the first time that EMERCOM assisted with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Immediately after the hurricane hit Cuba, EMERCOM was there, delivering building materials and emergency supplies to the Cuban people at the request of the government of the Republic of Cuba. During that operation, EMERCOM delivered over 32 tons of building materials to assist in the rebuilding of the thousands of homes that Hurricane Sandy destroyed.

The Ministry doesn’t seek publicity, or glory, or play politics with its assistance, as is evidenced by its website and the short, even terse, news releases that it distributes regarding its operations. It’s in the business of assisting those in need and takes that mission very seriously indeed. According to EMERCOM Minister Vladimir Puchkov, speaking at a forum in early October, EMERCOM had carried out 40 humanitarian operations overseas since the beginning of the year. That was before Sandy and several other disasters worldwide. Not only is the ministry assisting people in need internationally, according to Puchkov, EMERCOM rescue teams save a person’s life every 12 minutes, EMERCOM fire-fighters put out 300-400 fires a day, EMERCOM emergency response teams and helicopter rescue teams respond to a seemingly-endless stream of road accidents, and EMERCOM bomb disposal experts defuse from 100 to 200 explosive devices every 24 hours.

Almost every week, EMERCOM evacuates Russian citizens in distress from around the globe. Recently parachutist Irina Sinitsyna who was critically injured in California while attempting to break a world parachuting record was airlifted by EMERCOM from California back to Moscow on an aircraft equipped with an aerial emergency room staffed by five doctors, the plane flew non-stop from California and safely delivered Irina to Moscow, but unfortunately, despite the efforts of all involved, she died tragically on 2 October at Burdenko Neurological Clinic. Apart from California, Cuba, and New York, EMERCOM has been to more locations in the last year than most of us see in a lifetime. So far this year, this includes most of Europe, Thailand, the Caribbean, Cyprus, India, Sri Lanka, all over the former USSR, the Middle East, and more. In 2011, in such places as Austria, Italy, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia, Libya, Kyrgyzstan, and Japan, the Ministry carried out 70 international search and rescue operations. The current mission isn’t the first operation in the USA for EMERCOM; after Hurricane Katrina hit the USA, EMRERCOM was there to assist in September 2005. Three EMERCOM planes delivered more than 60 tons of humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, rations, tents, and blankets.

For some, the birthdate of the Ministry is a point of argument; officially, an order from then-President Boris Yeltsin founded the Ministry of Emergency Situations on 10 January 1994. However, some consider its real birthday as being 27 December 1990, when the Russian Rescue Corps was founded and assigned a similar mission. Currently, the EMERCOM Minister is Vladimir Puchkov, appointed by President Putin on 17 May 2012, who replaced the first head of the ministry, Sergei Shoigu, who was at the helm for 16 years. At present, EMERCOM is working with countries worldwide, including the USA, to assist in responding more effectively to disasters anywhere they might occur. For EMERCOM rescuers and professionals, their mission is a serious one and their only reward is in a job well done. They don’t seek publicity or fanfare, and most of the staff will tell you, when they save a life, that’s enough. So, whilst some countries engage in wars, killing, régime change, and use promises of assistance to further geopolitical goals, all over the world, Russia quietly saves lives and assists those in need, asking nothing in return.

12 November 2012

John Robles

Voice of Russia World Service




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